I’ve never met anybody who thinks abortion is a good thing. Sometimes necessary, a woman’s right, an outward sign of a civilized society, crucial to dignity and health. But never a good thing. So there’s pretty much a consensus among thinking people that while abortion must be safe and legal, it should also be, if possible, rare. But how do we reduce abortion rates?
The answer is complex, but we can summarize it in four recommendations. Make contraceptives fully and freely available. Provide a good and modern sex education for school students, starting at an early age. Achieve full gender equality. Eradicate poverty, especially in communities where unwanted pregnancies are common.
But here’s the rub. The international anti-abortion movement, known by the aching misnomer of “pro-life,” is resistant to all four.
Roman Catholic critics of abortion are opposed to any form of contraception beyond what is known as natural family planning. It doesn’t work for a whole variety of obvious reasons. Evangelical pro-lifers are less strident about contraceptives but do not want them generally available to younger people. Not only are they opposed to sex outside marriage, but they often deny it’s even happening. No wonder that unplanned pregnancies are so common among American evangelicals in particular.
Sex education in schools is anathema to almost the entire pro-life movement. Ideally, proponents want such education only to take place in the home, but it is rarely adequate — if it happens at all. The only public school sex-ed curriculum they would ever consider would be so archaic and controlled as to be useless.
As for female equality, conservative Christians are indifferent or even opposed to the concept. The Roman church does not ordain women as priests or deacons. Some evangelicals do ordain women, but their general culture is still deeply patriarchal.
Poverty? Many more traditional Christians have a strong sense of charity and outreach but seldom a thorough understanding of economic systems. As for militant pro-lifers, they are so obsessed with this single issue of abortion that social justice is seen as a digression or worse.
Direct conflicts abound. Women in the developing world, for example, have a far greater chance of a longer life and a more stable income if they have access to both birth control and abortion. But the Catholic and evangelical right have waged a campaign to stop the West from helping Africa in this area and, under U.S. President Donald Trump, have been frighteningly successful.
How sad and tragic that the most aggressive abortion opponents are actually exacerbating the issues that make more abortions inevitable. They want to ban it, remove public funding and even criminalize those involved. A profound issue reduced to sound bites and slogans.
Oh well, let them do their worst while the rest of us continue to do our best.
Michael Coren is an author and journalist in Toronto.
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